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Heresy: Fundamentals of Combat Riflecraft, Part Three (Or, “Two Will Do….Except When It Won’t!)

June 11, 2013

There is a false truth present in the “tactical” shooting community that has been around for decades. This lie goes back to the old mythology of “one-shot stops” and the mantra of “I’ll only carry a pistol if it starts with point-four.” That lie is the misguided faith in a two-shot default response to a bad guy problem that requires a ballistic solution. This used to be taught as the “double tap.” Based on conversations I’ve had with supposedly “trained” tactical shooters, including numerous “instructors,” the stupidity that is the double tap is still being promulgated.


To ensure a shared point of reference, a “double tap,” by definition, is simply two shots fired as quickly as possibly. It is simply “sight picture–shot-shot.” The greatest problem with the double tap is that you don’t know where the fuck your second shot is going, since it wasn’t aimed. You must see your sights for every single shot. YOU MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND THAT EXITS YOUR WEAPON. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cop on the street, an armed citizen defending your life or home, a soldier in Afghanistan fighting a counterinsurgency, or an insurgent trying to kill members of a totalitarian regime’s security forces, while gaining and maintaining the support of the civilian populace. YOU MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND THAT EXITS YOUR WEAPON.


In two decades of running a gun professionally, I’ve yet to see ANYONE who could shoot double taps accurately, with any degree of consistency at all. Sure, at three meters, with a pistol, shooting a stationary IPSC silhouette, on a flat, level, square range, double taps seem to work, and pretty well at that. However, as soon as you begin adding no-shoots amongst the hostiles, in tight confines, or allow the hostiles to move, or add any other kind of stress to the equation, at realistic pistol and rifle engagement ranges (all of which you know…happens in real life and shit…), the double tap shit falls completely fucking to pieces…in a hurry.


Being fast is great, and it is inarguably important when you’re trying to kill the other guy before he kills you. Fast misses though, will get you (or more importantly, your buddies) killed just as quick and just as dead as slow misses. Hits on target are what ultimately count, and the only way to ensure hits on target, is to AIM YOUR FUCKING WEAPON, EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SQUEEZE THE GOD-DAMNED TRIGGER!


Controlled Pairs are the answer….maybe…sometimes…


Controlled pairs, sometimes referred to as “hammers,” are the trained gunman’s response to the inherent inaccuracy of double taps. Controlled pairs require three distinct sight pictures to be executed properly: “sight picture-shot-sight picture-shot-sight picture.” Assuming you can actually shoot worth a fuck, this means that, all other things being equal, all of your shots will be hits, because you aimed every one (obviously, that’s not going to work out in real life, because shit happens, Mr. Murphy gets to vote, and the bad guy may be moving, or the shot is just too difficult for you to make…As long as you can account for the shot though, you’ve got a chance of surviving the court of popular opinion when dealing with the local civilian populace after your errant round smokes some yahoo in the head that didn’t have enough fucking brains to exit stage right when the guns starting making noise).


Controlled pairs will be slower than double taps, at least initially, because you have to build the ability to aim/shoot/aim/shoot/aim as quickly as humanly possible. With good, effective training and subsequent practice though, it is more than possible to get two aimed rounds downrange at CQM ranges (call it out to 50 meters), in less than 1/2 second (at 100 meters, two shots to the “A-zone” or “sniper’s triangle,” in one second, is readily achievable).


The Rest of the Time and That Bitch, Little Miss Reality


The controlled pair is a useful tool in teaching fundamental combat marksmanship and weapons craft. In fact, I use it all the time in teaching. It’s an excellent tool for developing the mechanics of follow-through. The problem is that, far too often, in both training and execution, the controlled pair becomes a default response and a de facto double tap.


As soon as someone who’s trained exclusively in controlled pairs has to fire a third or fourth or fifth round in the same string, the miss the last shots, and shit just generally falls apart, because they’ve trained and conditioned themselves to blow the follow-through on the second shot. At best, they end up firing a string of controlled pairs, with a noticeable pause between, allowing the enemy time to adjust his position relative to their sight picture, slowing down the next controlled pair, or causing it to miss entirely.


Your shot string doesn’t end with the last shot. It ends after you’ve assessed the effects of your work. You’re done shooting when you’ve looked through your sights and seen that the threat no longer exists as a threat. The controlled pair becomes a default response and a de facto double tap, because shooters conditioned to controlled pairs invariably blow the follow through on the second shot, in their hurry to get to the next target.


The problem with default responses, whether they are controlled pairs, hammers, or double taps, is that they don’t take reality into account. You might have missed, regardless of how well you shoot IPSC silhouettes on the square range. Or, your hits may not have been as precise as you thought they were. Or, maybe the dude’s just not a pussy, and it’s going to take more than two hits to the vitals to put him down (before any of you fucktards start blathering ridiculously about how it only takes one hit from a real man’s gun, like a .308, you need to go read the autobiographies of both Colonel Charles Beckwith and General Boykin. Both men took hits from 12.7mm anti-aircraft guns, to the torso, and not only survived, but returned to duty and spent years more in the SOF world. Newsflash: 12.7mm is the old Warsaw Pact answer to .50BMG. It makes a much larger hole, and delivers a fuck-ton more energy to the target than your pipsqueak 30-caliber does…). That’s where the currently fashionable-and correct-adage comes from, to “shoot him to the ground.”


“Yeah, but I’ll just pull a Mozambique Drill on his ass, and put the third one in his brain bucket!” Of course you will, because you are a rare, delicate, and special little flower, and gosh darn it, people like you!


Outside of the bad guy wearing rifle plate body armor (in which case, you ought to be shooting the motherfucker in the hips any way…), what if your two to the chest were misses? What if they turned out to be just peripheral hits? Now, out of the blue, after missing the largest fucking part of the dude, you’re going to magically pull precision accuracy out of your ass, and hit a smaller, more difficult target? Of course you are…Are you fucking high? Even if they’re wearing armor and you smoked him in the hips, what if you missed? What if you did hit him, but he hasn’t bled out enough yet?


What if the bad guy is not a fucking silhouette or photo-realistic target printed on a sheet of fucking paper? What is the bad guy is a real person and is smart enough to use cover? What if all you can see of him is his shoulder, or part of his leg?


The only sensible response, and the one that any thinking person with a modicum of common sense and realistic training or experience would provide is, to forget using a two-shot default response. In fact, forget a default response at all. We live in a world of shades of gray (maybe not fifty shades, but there’s lots of grays in the world….see what I did there? Damn, I’m a funny fucker!). Hell, even black and white are shades of gray!


Shoot the motherfucker with a non-default response. Whether it’s one shot, or two, or three, or five, or ten…you need to be able to fire accurate, fast, repetitive shots, and assess the effects of your shots, through your sights, without slowing down.


Change it up from time to time in training. On one target, shoot three; on another shoot four. Then two, then one, then five; you get the idea. The key is not to go slow, nor to go fast. The key is to go as fast as you’re able, while still being accurate enough to get the job done. Shoot only as fast as you’re able…but be able to shoot as fast as you need to. Any hillbilly with a squirrel rifle can take his time and get accurate hits. You need to be able to shoot accurately, fast.


“But John! What if there are more than one bad guy? Do you shoot each guy once or twice, and then come back, or do you shoot the first one to the ground, and then move on?” It’s a question I get asked a lot, and it’s a valid one. The simple, and brutally honest answer is…it depends on the situation.


The practical answer, in my experience, is that there are a couple of factors to consider…


First of all, remember that we’re not talking exclusively, or even primarily, about a home or personal defense situation, where you’re the only good guy with a gun. If you’ve got to kill every bad guy, all by your lonesome, you seriously need to reconsider your personnel selection and your training programs for your group, because they are FUCKED UP!


Second, outside of CQM distances (and even within), your first or second or third shot might not kill the dude, or even hit him. It might, however, force him to duck deep enough behind cover that he’s no longer a threat to you, or you’re just no longer able to effectively engage him any more for the time being.


Third, common sense and tactical logic says that you should address the most dangerous lethal threat first, right? Then shoot him until he’s no longer a threat, or at least not the most lethal threat, and then move on. Whether it takes one round, or ten rounds, to either kill him, put him down hard enough to be out of the fight, or make him seek cover (i.e. “Make him more concerned with not getting shot than he is with shooting you”), shoot the fucker until he’s no longer a threat.



John Mosby

SFOB-Rifleman’s Ridge



From → Uncategorized

  1. Wobbles permalink

    I don’t think for a moment that a larger caliber would ensure one stop shots, but I have to wonder about the real cause of two shots being the default for most people (and yes, I get that you are saying to break the “default”). If 308 WERE the standard, would we still see this habit? Or would you be arguing to break a single shot habit? I am NOT proposing we should switch, just curious how you would tend utilize a different tool. Logistic considerations render this topic moot (I have read your article on the topic), but it is still interesting to consider.

    I also wonder how you trade off the stupidity of a blind default response with the time cost of conscious decisions. I would think an assessment after the first shot would take longer than a default aim and fire – at least half a second or so for response times. Perhaps this is how “two” became a defacto standard?

    • It’s not a conscious decision. Your default response is to keep shooting the fucker until he’s done. That reduces it to the fastest decision making matrix possible….continue shooting/stop shooting. The element that allows you to continue going fast is by using follow-through. If you’re not using follow-through, it doesn’t matter if you run one shot, two, or five….it’s going to take you all week.

  2. shotgun permalink

    John as usual you break it down to nuts and bolts. Your past post’s bring up issues that most don’t think about. They are shooting at you and moving or behind cover and they are not going to make it easy for you especially after the first report. I haven’t been shot at very often but the few times it did happen my rate went from normal to warp speed in a nano second. I spent 18 years on the job with the Fire Dept. and had more than a few times when I wasn’t sure how it would end for me. Still after about 5 to 10 seconds I able to come up with a plan of attack and get the job done. Not sure I have 5 to 10 seconds on the battlefield, need to be behind cover immediate. I have been spending time with the MP 15/22 and my Kimber 22 (can’t shoot up my stores for training due to the current drought, although 22 is worst. I do have 1000’s of rounds for a while.) Moving shooting with a red dot and it’s not easy getting hits, stumbling and tripping over shit while trying to hit a small gong is extremely tasking at best. Not easy for me being a big knuckle-dragging ape. Building a couple of portable barricades to learn to shoot from different types of irregular cover and holes and loops and prone positions. Your write up on the use of optics is right on. Getting back to the stress issue I have been reading way to many post about how the Acog sucks on the net. I have yet to find anything that has a faster sight acquisition (great optics) with the ability to know your drop, to getting better than average first round hits on targets at all ranges very quick. The range sight is stupid easy to use without burning up the brain. Everyone talks mils and moa’s which is fine if you are setting up a range card and on a sniper team. And most people after a couple of hundred yards can’t estimate range worth a shit with out a laser, have fun doing that while being shot at. But when the shit hits the fan other than a few blessed people, who is going to do mental math to engaging targets and not getting your ass shot off. I know if I try doing that and not returning fire and finding cover as fast as possible, I will be TIT’s UP for sure. The other thing I have working on different load development with different bullets. IE. 162 AP, API, 165 Interbonds and 168 match kings. Getting the 168 to fly great the other three will hit close enough out to moderate ranges up to 500 yards with the a few grains difference between them. I have the mags loaded (I tape them on ends so I know what is what by feel) and set up for what ever I run into and from cover change out to the needed rounds for the problem I encounter. Not the most ideal solution but allows for shifting conditions to be dealt with more effectively. As an example dealing with an RV. You can with the AP round shoot the windshield in the same spot repeatedly to get through the armored glass and take out the driver to stop it. What the Acog is great for finding that first round hit and keeping those rounds on the impact site. Then change over to API for his friends inside. 168 MK are not ideal for that problem and depending on the range my not get the job done fast enough. If you have roaming hordes then they probably won’t be wearing body armor, then the 165 Interbounds should take care of that problem most of the time with one shot as long as your shot placement is good (does a great job on elk, should be fine for the two legged types then.) Thus not wasting AP on a target that is doesn’t need that type of round, the 168 MK when precision is need for that foot sticking out. As always John please bring your particle insight to the table, it makes one think about the how’s and why’s before we need it and take that knowledge to the field to practice with. Thanks John for your effort. Shotgun

  3. parapearce permalink

    10-4, Double tap is best used with Muffy you just pulled out of the club at 2a.m. Good stuff as always, keep it up. I think we’re all going to need to be up to speed sooner than anyone imagined. On another note John, why did you give up on the Coldsteel Push dagger?

    • Shorty permalink

      I carry one every day but the sheath sucks major dick. I hate that piece of shit.

  4. Hillard Foster Jr permalink

    You know, I like my .308. I also go by the shoot till it is not moving, has radically changed shape, or is on fire. One shot one kill is for snipers, when under cover.
    If armored then shot the hips and then the head once they are down. That make take more than one shot.
    .308 is not 12.5, or .50cal, but it does carry a ton of damage down range. A well placed round with a .308 will do the job.

  5. Bill Harzia permalink

    RE: The .40 / 9mm / .45 / 5.56 / 7.62 debate: A lot of it may be your adversary’s determination to live. As evidence, I present the story of MSgt. Roy Benavidez.

  6. John,
    I enjoy reading your work. I even appreciate your authentic language; it reads like I’m listening to a “teaching moment” at Range -37.
    I would suggest that you try to keep in mind that not everyone who might hold a contrary opinion is a “fucktard”. Believe it or not you’re not the only guy who’s been to Camp McKall and the Ft. Benning School for Boys.
    Oh, yeah, one more thing; it’s not necessary to coach everything in terms straight out of FM 31 dash whatever. We get it.
    All in all John, you’re doing God’s work. Keep it up.

    • I recognize that not everyone needs a coaching in definitions of acronyms. However, due to the overwhelming number of times I’ve been castigated for not defining common acronyms, it’s just easier that way…..

      And yes, everyone who disagrees with me is a fucktard…..(note tongue firmly planted in cheek….)

  7. Name (Required) permalink

    I am glad you started with a definition of double tap…that is not how I have ever heard it or used the term. In my world, a double tap means putting another bullet into someone who appears dead to make sure that if they are playing dead, they stop playing. Usually done at very short range.

    For example in a well executed L shape ambush, after the ambush has been triggered, the enemy force in the kill zone shot and/or blown to pieces, an assault force should sweep the kill zone to keep any enemy who has escaped the kill zone from re-organizing. In the course of that sweep, you ‘double tap’ what appear to be corpses to make sure they don’t shoot you in the back once you’ve passed by them.

    So to me, a double tap is a perfectly appropriate action, with a completely different definition.

  8. Overwatch permalink

    Well said, Col MOSBY, well said. My father, a Guadalcanal Marine, always taught me to aim for center mass. With people wearing body armor these days, aiming lower makes all the sense in the world. Might I suggest upper legs? The thighs are big and meaty and the femoral artery lies there. Or perhaps knees. Vest or not, Bubba dang sure ain’t gonna run after you if he has a bullet in his knee. He’s going down and in a lot of pain.

    It’s all situational for sure. Hell you might not want to kill the buggers at all if you think you can get Intel from ’em. Dead men tell no tales. A man in extreme pain, may trade his life for info, if he thinks he might die,

  9. Thanks for your excellent post. However, formatting cuts off last part of each line of text, e.g. first line of first para ends “has been” and first line of second para ends “is simply two.” Perhaps you can reset formatting your end. Cannot change it here. Tanks! C

  10. Quinnotaur permalink

    “Yeah, but I’ll just pull a Mozambique Drill on his ass, and put the third one in his brain bucket!” Of course you will, because you are a rare, delicate, and special little flower, and gosh darn it, people like you!

    *Note to self* Stop drinking coffee while reading Mosby’s blog…..

  11. DISPENSER4HIRE permalink

    At one training facility geared toward civilian self defense, it was recomended when faced with multiple armed attackers to use “boarding house rules” Everyone gets a serving before anyone gets seconds. That made sense at the time, but I will think about your opinion. Thanks for the information

  12. When this website was first recommended to me I was worried that since I have no military/tactical experience I was going to be over my head. Thankfully you break everything down so well that even a newb like me can understand the info, and take it to the range for practice. I’d like to thank you for giving me the confidence that if I ever have to I WILL be able to accurately and quickly defend my family.

  13. Colorado Pete permalink

    Thank you sir for another first-rate post.

    My experience has seen folks use somewhat different definitions for double-tap and hammer. To me double-tap was somewhat meaningless and generic. A hammer was two fast shots off one sight picture without really seeing the second shot’s sight picture, for speed up close. A dedicated pair was both sight pictures seen but no correction for the second shot (slower than a hammer, faster than a controlled pair). Thanks for defining your terms, otherwise confusion can result.

    But I agree on the controlled pair bit. Flash sight picture, press if good, correct and press otherwise, see the full recoil cycle of the front sight (don’t blink!), assess new flash sight pic, press if good, correct and press otherwise….

    You have to see the full recoil cycle of front sight up-and-down. I think this is what throws off a lot of people. Blinking is a no-no. This is where you find out (for a handgun) how correct your grip is in terms of recoil control. If the front sight snaps back down into the rear notch to good alignment as fast as recoil sent it up, you have the correct grip. If you can witness this and be focused mentally on this process as well as optically, this is what allows high speed.

    When this process goes from conscious to subconscious, you can really speed up. If you can see the front sight lift, the slide come back, the empty leave the ejection port, and the slide go forward as the front sight snaps back down as fast as it went up, and it seems like you’re waiting impatiently for this slow-ass gun to cycle, then you’re in the subconscious groove.

    When you get to this point, you have full consciousness of your accuracy at perception speeds definable down to the odd couple hundredths of a second, and can correct bad sight alignments at around 3-4 hundredths of a second (according to my shot timer while running Bill Drills), and shoot with full accuracy control at very high speeds. Takes an awful lot of rounds downrange to get there though…and to keep it. Wish I was back there.

  14. Anonymous67 permalink

    ” or an insurgent trying to kill members of a totalitarian regime’s security forces”

    You clearly don’t understand insurgency or guerrilla warfare, Mr. Mosby. Because both of those type of individuals will do whatever they have to downsize a Government by force if it includes mass slaughter of all those left wing populous who work in federal and government organization whom are against us. Like ALL the ones in the fusion centers. And don’t bring up that populous crap. You cannot WIN over left wing extremist whom work in our government and will NEVER change their view. You are no true 3% if you don’t understand what our forefathers and the LORD would want. Fore that matter what our forefathers would want and us to DO. If you think that the targets ARE NOT government employees and organizations whom chose to be against us. WHOM were THE MARK . I am and I have formed a very large group with full support from multiple directions, to live off the grid. (With same grade weapons our military has and tanks/ammunition.)

    We are GOING to make that change for that the Piece of Dirt in the white house is looking for. For better if you like it or not. If you Militias don’t like how we operate we will mow you down. I’m a green barret and I’m already training all my fellow insurgents everything that I have learned. I was offered to go to a government contract school for training. Just for the training not to take up government contracts all paid for. Why? because they LIKE the way I think as our forefathers would think no different Mr. Mosby… Maybe when you grow a pair someday you will meet true patriots whom will supply you anything you want. You obviously don’t understand that we are at war, and those working against us need to be brought down. Regardless if they call it terrorism. That word has been over rated and worn out so bad it lost all meaning. My suggestion to you is when things get hot which they will within the next year by US. You better think of places to hide when the FEDS start bringing people like yourself down, because of my units…We are growing….Many unlike yourself whom are keyboard commandos are getting anything done. I have very short time here, before leaving. Soon many of you will be given a choice to be with us or against us.

    • Congratulations! You have won the “I’m a dumb motherfucker of the month post award!” Beyond your obvious illiteracy, well……never mind. You’re an idiot.

      • Overwatch permalink

        You’re a Green Barrett? Well I’ll be damned, I thought the M82A1 only came in black. I suspect the 67 refers to your IQ. No one in SF ever refers to himself as a Green Beret. The Green Beret is what you WEAR, not what you are. I’ve never been one and even I know that. Between other SF guys, he MIGHT be a Green Beanie (if you know him well and he likes you). I can see your balls hanging on Mosby’s wall one day like a trophy.

        By the way, you owe me a new pair of Fruit of the Looms, because I laughed so hard when I read your drivel-filled tome, I peed in the pair I was wearing.

        Dumb motherfucker of the MONTH…more like dumbest motherfucker of all time. Get a life boy, you’re a joke.

      • Anonymous67 permalink

        Regardless, what you may think of my grammar. I still make my valid point about your nonsense keyboard commando opinions. You post numerously. We now longer live in times of Che Guevara where we have to win over the populous. We no longer live in times to win anyone over that we already don’t have won over. You are always through your righting like we have to win someone over, or we have to represent a good image. That is laughable…..

        You talk like you are part of A Militia. Militias are dead and old school……They rather have their rights taken away and bitch about it instead of action. And live a American dream that no longer exist….

        Are we going to gain people on a massive scale? Absolutely not, and history would support this. Just take one look at the Poles or the Jews in WWII who, for the sake of not rasing a fuss, were rolled over and murdered on a massive scale. Even during the American Revolution there were only about three percent of the population that were actively involved in fighting; over twenty percent were Torries, a small percentage covertly supported the Revolution, and the rest were fence sitters afraid to get involved.

        They already fired the first shot, but let us not be caught up in some delusion of grandeur that it will cause a “magical awakening”, for history shows us that it will not. It will only serve to reinforce those who have already stood, and make those who are already fearful even more so. Where was the militia when the first shots of the 20th century were fired? When Gordon Kahl was being burned alive and having his hands and feet chopped off by overzelous federal agents? Where was the militia when Vickie Weaver was murdered in her own doorway while holding an “assult baby”? Where was the militia when scores of Branch Davidians, including women and children, were being systematically murdered by the federal government? Where is the militia today as our government sets up and murders Americans without trial or conviction (however guilty they may be of crimes against us)? Where is the militia today as our President offers aid and comfort to an enemy that we have declared war against and lost countless men and women to in the past few decades? Where are those who pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States of America against ALL enemies, both FOREIGN and DOMESTIC?

        I’ll tell you where; sitting on their collective asses right here worrying about what others will think of them if they were to act, that’s where. Am I mad? You’re damn right I’m mad! I’m mad at those who have sworn the afformentioned oath and have done little or nothing to adhire to it; I’m mad at We the People for rolling over and taking it up the wazoo day after day after day after day, complaining all the way on this handcart to hell we are on; Yes, I’m mad. Mad enough to do something stupid? Yes, my line has been over drawn and my forces already succeed 20 persons. I’ve been at this for 3 hard years, and I have accomplished nothing other than imparting some knowledge to others, finally gaining large support in military weaponry, gear, and unlimited amount of money.

        Sometimes the house must be burned down if it becomes so infested with vermin that it becomes a danger to the nieghborhood; for it’s the only way to insure that the vermin do not reproduce and spread further. Mr. Mosby, stead of babbling all the time about casualties and not winning people over and worry about mere left wing sheep being killed (war is war) Why not start preaching the core from a Black Robe perspective. Give advise and incite instead of cowardness and whining like a Militia group..

      • Overwatch permalink

        OMFG…he’s got 20 people. Mo…I think we should just let Mr, Badass here do all the work. Hell we can just sit back and cruise while he and his 20 men kick the Regime’s butt from here to Kingdom Come. Hey 67…you should write a book. A FUCKING JOKE BOOK.

      • Anonymous67 permalink

        overwatch must be one of your militia friends…continue to hide in those mountains boys. We may be their someday for a friendly visit.

  15. Overwatch permalink

    I know Mr Mosby not a whit. I have never met him. I live quite happily in my mountains, thank you. I await your arrival you big bad Green Barrett you.

  16. Colorado Pete permalink

    Relax fellas, this is just the New Army, Obama’s creation, speaking…you see, they officially changed the spelling of “Beret” just recently, along with significantly moving the goalposts of standards for the Q course…but in which direction, is a state secret.

    We are all much safer now, don’t you agree?
    Now where the hell are my clean pink panties with the little teddy bears and rainbows….

  17. Alfred E. Neuman permalink

    Reblogged this on The Dixie Traveler.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mosby: Heresy – Part III | Western Rifle Shooters Association
  2. John Mosby – Heresy on Combat Riflecraft | The Defensive Training Group

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